ARM Launches Cortex-R52 Processor

Functional Safety Is the Chip’s Key Selling Point

This week, ARM announced the launch of its Cortex-R52, a chip that the company hopes will allow it to be successful in markets such as autonomous vehicles and medical and industrial robots. The Cortex-R52 processor is designed for systems that need to be highly responsive while maintaining high safety standards. ARM claims the new chip is 35 percent faster than the previous Cortex-R5 processor.

ARM, the UK chip designer that was recently acquired by Japan’s SoftBank Group (see Instant Insight: SoftBank Announces Proposed Acquisition of ARM, said its new processor is ideally suited for systems that require advanced safety features in addition to efficiency and responsive execution. The chip could also find applications in fields such as automotive power train controls, surgical automation and safety management. SoftBank likely recognised the potential of such new markets when it acquired ARM.

The R52 chip should help ARM expand its reach into connected devices and push it further into the component market for the Internet of things. CCS Insight had predicted that ARM will venture into new areas such as autonomous vehicles, security systems and robotics (see ARM Buys Apical, Developer of Imaging Technologies).

ARM has long been dominant in designing processors for the handset market, but in order to grow its business the company has been eager to take a leading role in the automotive industry, which until now has relied heavily on processors designed by auto makers and auto parts manufacturers. ARM recently announced a joint venture with Aeris, a technology and services firm that will help target the automotive market.

ARM isn’t the only chipmaker pushing into the expanding market for safety-critical chips. Earlier in 2016, Intel, the world’s largest maker of PC processors, purchased Italian semiconductor company Yogitech, which specialises in safety chips. Nvidia is also targeting this space with its artificial intelligence platform for cars, called Drive PX 2, and associated DriveWorks software. Several major auto makers, as well as Google and Uber, are in the process of developing autonomous vehicles, while rumours of Apple’s ambitions in this area persist. We expect the shift toward self-driving cars to accelerate the demand for advanced software and sensors in cars. Given the potential life-or-death scenarios in transportation, safety-critical components are vital for the market of self-driving cars and other forms of advanced robotics.